City Press movie review
Movie: Red Sparrow
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton
It’s a bit of a cliché, Red Sparrow. It’s your average modern-day take on the Mata Hari-as-dominatrix/assassin scenario – played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence. She is the heroine who must fight and struggle because her choices have been limited by a Russian patriarchy.
Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is a renowned Russian ballerina who suffers a career-threatening injury during a performance. Her future is bleak and the hope she has of continuing to care for her ill mother Nina (Joely Richardson) is made even more murky by the fact that without dancing, she has nothing.
A vulnerable woman in a desperate economic position calls for one thing: A corrupt uncle. In Dominika’s case it’s uncle Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), a deputy director of Russian intelligence agency SVR. He manipulates her into getting involved in a dubious assignment where Dominika will witness a murder and be the only person privy to the Russian government’s secret crime.
With its clichéd and predictable narrative, Red Sparrow leaves the viewer feeling tired. And it’s not because of the thrilling scenes. Mostly, it’s because the film is rather exhausting to watch. Graphic scenes of rape and torture are hardly a fair swap for the film’s thin offering of action or mayhem – two variables that are usually more pleasing to audiences in movies like these. It seems to swap suspense for spite that’s meant to come across as seductive. But there is little seducing to be had here and it’s not quite as sexy as it thinks it is.
The spite leaves the viewer with a woozy stomach and a sour taste in the mouth long after the end credits have stopped rolling.
The movie is adapted from the book of the same title penned by former CIA operative Jason Matthews. The espionage tale reunites Lawrence with Francis Lawrence, director of the last three Hunger Games films. The relationship between director, lead actress and film in this instance, however, is less successful, less … sparky. Even though the location-based thriller has a lot of style, it remains a shallow portrayal of what one would think is rather interesting source material.
Over and above that, one wishes that Lawrence’s attempt at a Russian accent would stitch together as perfectly as the lavish costumes. It doesn’t and that’s rather unfortunate, although she makes up for it with a possessed stare.